With the rise of the Internet, many degree programs are now saving students time and money by going online. Students interested in pursuing education in paralegal studies can also benefit from a variety of online training options. Whether you are looking for a general program or specialized curriculum in areas like corporate law, litigation, environmental law, criminal law, or immigration law, there is an online paralegal program that will work for you.
Why Should I Consider an Online Paralegal Program?
Online education programs offer users many benefits, including:
- Flexible Location – Because your program is online, you can complete coursework and attend lectures from the comfort of your own home. You have the flexibility of communicating with classmates through message boards and even watching your professor lecture via skype or other video streaming program.
- Schedule Compatibility – Many online learners already have a job and family, so their free time to attend classes and complete assignments is very limited. Luckily, online programs offer students a lot more flexibility. You can schedule your school schedule around your life instead of having to drop everything and run to class a few times a week.
- Self-Paced Learning – Just as online classes allow you to set your own schedule, they also offer you more options for self-paced learning. You do not have to be a full time student when enrolled in an online program as you often do in on-campus programs. You can learn at your own pace, taking classes when they work with your schedule and life.
- Lower Costs – Another great perk of online classes is the cost savings they offer. Because you are attending virtually, schools can keep costs lower by not having to provide a physical space and amenities often found on-campus.
With more than 600 online paralegal programs available in the U.S., you can more easily access quality education and pursue a degree in a program that is flexible to fit with your busy life.
What Types of Paralegal Training Programs Are Available?
The American Bar Association (ABA) is the leading expert on paralegal educational programs. It continuously evaluates and approves these types of programs on a voluntary basis. When granting approval, the ABA considers a variety of factors, including:
- Curriculum and academic policies
- Faculty and program direction
- Admissions standards and practices
- Student services, like placement and counseling
It is important to note that not all paralegal programs receive ABA approval. Students are also not required to complete an ABA-approved program since paralegals are not subject to state or federal licensing or regulatory requirements. However, getting a degree from an ABA approved program is not only likely to better prepare you for your chosen career, but many employers look to hire legal support staff that have earned their degree through one of these approved programs.
The ABA approves paralegal programs at every level, including:
- Associate Degrees – Associate degrees in paralegal studies typically consist of about 60 to 70 credits and two years of full-time study. These types of programs are typically found at the community/junior college level. An associate degree in paralegal studies will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to gather and analyze legal information, research the law, prepare and interpret legal documents, and conduct many of the administrative duties required in a law office.
- Bachelor’s Degrees – The next step up from an associate degree is a bachelor degree. Bachelor’s degree programs in paralegal studies typically consist of 120-130 semester units (with 60 semester units in paralegal courses) and about four years of full-time study. A bachelor’s degree in paralegal studies will allow you to develop competency in a number of areas of litigation and legal specialties. While an associate degree gives you the basics, a bachelor’s degree prepares you to take on a number of duties associated with senior-level paralegals in law firms, corporations, nonprofits, government agencies, and other law settings. You may also have the option of specializing in one or two areas of the law. Many bachelor programs are capped with an internship.
- Master’s Degrees – This type of degree is the highest you can attain in the paralegal field. Master’s degrees in paralegal studies typically consist of about 39 credits and two years of full-time study. Because this type of program is not required to be a paralegal, it is typically only undergone for career advancement purposes. Master’s degree programs in paralegal studies are ideal for people seeking careers in research or academia, or who really want to specialize in one area of the law.
- Certificate Programs – If you are looking for an extra addition to your degree, you should consider a paralegal certificate program. Certificate programs typically consist of 18 to 60 semester units. Longer certificate programs include both general education and paralegal courses, while shorter certificate programs are designed for students that already hold an associate or bachelor’s degree. Certificate programs typically take anywhere from 9 to 18 months to complete. There are several certificate options available:
- Post-Associate or Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Programs for Paralegals – This type of certificate program offers an in-depth study of a specific area of law.
- Post-Associate or Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Programs for Career Changers – If you have a degree in another field, this certificate can give you the background you need to be successful as a paralegal.
- Entry-Level Certificate Programs – This type of program is geared towards high school graduates seeking entry-level positions.
Finding an Online Paralegal Degree Program
There are a variety of online programs to choose from if you are interested in a career as a paralegal. Some offer students the option of completing a hybrid program, which offers both on-campus and online courses, while others offer fully online programs. No matter the program, it should be designed to deliver a comprehensive paralegal curriculum and provide you with the education you need to be competitive and successful in the legal world.